(BORDENTOWN, N.J.) – More than 100 New Jersey Christmas trees were delivered to New Jersey National Guardsmen and their families on Monday, December 14 as part of Christmas Trees for New Jersey Military Families, a joint initiative of the New Jersey Departments of Agriculture and Military and Veterans Affairs, the New Jersey Christmas Tree Growers Association and New Jersey Agricultural Society’s Farmers Against Hunger program.
Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno and New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher welcomed military families at a special ceremony at the New Jersey National Guard Joint Military and Family Assistance Center in Bordentown.
“Those who have served this country deserve our admiration and respect all year round, but especially during the holidays,” said Lt. Governor Guadagno. “It is such a small token of our appreciation, to help make sure that they have a nice holiday season and remember that those that they fight for care about them as well.”
“We are very pleased to facilitate the donation of fresh cut Christmas trees directly from our state’s tree farmers to brighten the holidays for New Jersey military families,” said Secretary Fisher. “Growing Christmas trees is more than a business to these farmers. They welcome people onto the farms year after year and are part of these families’ traditions. We appreciate farmers for their generosity.”
Christmas Trees for New Jersey Military Families is a new collaborative program. The New Jersey Agricultural Society collected the trees over a three-day period using their Farmers Against Hunger trucks. More than 12 New Jersey Christmas tree growers donated over 100 trees for the initiative. More than 50 soldiers and airmen picked up trees during Monday’s event. The remaining 50 trees will be collected by unit representatives who will deliver the trees to families who currently have a loved one deployed.
“The holiday season is especially difficult for military members and their families who are unable to spend it with their loved ones,” said Brig. Gen. Michael Cunniff, The Adjutant General, New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. “Although nothing can extinguish the pain of being away from family during this time, these trees will lift the spirits of families who will spend the holiday without their hero and the deployed troops will find comfort knowing their families are being cared for.”
The New Jersey Christmas Tree Growers Association is a state organization of growers, professionals and allied industry leaders dedicated to the advancement of the latest information in the production, promotion and marketing of Christmas trees and related products. First organized in 1950, the association now has 200 members. Vice President Tim Dunne said the growers are very community-minded, donating trees for various causes and raising funds for Farmers Against Hunger’s gleaning efforts.
“New Jersey Christmas tree growers work hard all year tending to trees so that when Christmas season arrives, we can bring joy to a family with that perfect tree for their home,” said Dunne. “We are happy to donate trees to New Jersey military families this year. It is a small gesture that we can do for those who help protect our freedom every day.”
Each family who received a Christmas tree today also was presented with a handmade ornament created by Northern Burlington Regional High School FFA members in Columbus, designed by the Department of Agriculture and donated by the New Jersey Agricultural Society. Refreshments were provided Liberty USO and volunteers from the various organizations.
“The New Jersey Christmas Tree Growers Association has been a supporter of our organization for many years,” said Kristina Guttadora, New Jersey Agricultural Society Executive Director. “When asked to help transport the trees using our trucks, we were proud to partner in sharing the joy of a fresh Christmas tree with military families.”
Almost 69,000 Christmas trees are cut in New Jersey each year. The 2012 U.S. Census of Agriculture ranked New Jersey seventh in the nation in the number of Christmas tree growers, with 809 farms that grow more than 4,600 acres of Christmas trees in the state.